Monday, May 10, 2021

Cannes 1984: Introduction

The Cannes Film Festival will take place in July this year (it's traditionally in May but there's a pandemic going on). While we wait, and over the next two weeks, this blog will publish translations of all the articles written by Serge Daney while covering the
1984 Cannes Film Festival for Libération

They will be published "in real time, thirty-seven years later", meaning on the same day of the year that they were published in 1984, giving a sense of Daney's  writing rhythm and (varying) quality. The twenty or so texts will go live on the blog shortly after 12 noon UK time. On some days, several texts will be posted (up to three).

A very special mention to Srikanth Srinivasan of The Seventh Art blog without whom these translations wouldn't have been possible. 

We begin with Daney's introduction to the chapter on Cannes 1984 in his book Ciné journal. In this series, you will find the texts from this chapter along with others from the volume 2 of La maison cinéma et le monde as well as some other pieces written for Liberation.

A Cannes festival

For the one for whom Cannes remains, above all, a film festival and that nothing should be “news” except films, the task is increasingly difficult. Maintaining the fiction of “instant criticism” and “on-the-spot reaction” is a gamble particularly strange since “on-the-spot” nothing happens apart from predictable and pre-sold things. Controversy has become rare and few of the “eagerly awaited” films have not already been seen in Paris private screenings before the festival. Yet, if the plight and raison d’être of the daily film critic is to write as best he can with his back as close to the wall as possible, in Cannes this plight becomes a little-known feat and a luxury on the verge of masochism. Thus, from 1982, when Libération decided to dedicate several daily pages for the Cannes Festival, the Cinema team has gotten used to seeing the return of the month of May as a test of their sporting abilities. 

A festival also has its advantages: for want of enjoyment of the films that one must report on and for want of witnessing the reaction of a real audience, it is still possible to measure the temperature of what flows in between the films and what gives a “state of things” in official world cinema. It is even tempting to keep a sort of public diary, made of speculative moods and theoretical hearsay, in short to take up the immodest project of a chronicle, and to name it “From the last row” in order to take a step back, even forcibly, from the feigned frenzy of the festival.

Introduction to the Cannes 1984 section of Ciné journal 1981-86, Paris, Cahiers du cinéma, 1986. Translation by Laurent Kretzschmar and Srikanth Srinivasan.

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